AUSF3: UTE: Sandown race report

JOHN Bowe teamed with a Ferrari-driving Hong Kong banker to win his third Sandown 500 endurance race in Melbourne today. The V8 Supercar stalwart, who also won in a Falcon with Dick Johnson in 1994 and 1995, held out a tense late challenge from ...

AUSF3: UTE: Sandown race report

JOHN Bowe teamed with a Ferrari-driving Hong Kong banker to win his third Sandown 500 endurance race in Melbourne today.

The V8 Supercar stalwart, who also won in a Falcon with Dick Johnson in 1994 and 1995, held out a tense late challenge from Neal Bates in a Porsche to take the Clarion Sandown 500 by a three-second margin.

Bowe and co-driver Tom Waring drove a steady race, allowing others to lead until lap 113 of the scheduled 161 laps.

With Bowe at the wheel, the Ferrari built a 30-second lead over Bates and teammate Steve Webb, allowing sufficient time to make a final fuel stop at lap 124 without losing the position.

The fancied Lamborghini Diablo of Paul Stokell and Queensland 500 winner Steven Johnson collapsed literally on lap 88 while in the lead when a front suspension ball joint failed.

"That's only a $160 part - the Lamborghini equivalent of a 20 cent part in a Commodore," a rueful Stokell said as he watched Johnson limp the car back to the pits with a wheel askew.

Jim Richards also uncharacteristically failed to finish, a broken gearshift stopping his Porsche on lap 129 while in second place.

Bowe/Waring and Bates/Webb were the only teams to complete the full distance, but Peter Fitzgerald and Geoff Morgan (Porsche) put in a monumental effort to achieve 159 laps for third place.

Although Fitzgerald's crew worked until 4.30 am today to replace a gearbox, it failed again on lap 50 and the pair struggled through the rest of the event unable to use fifth or sixth gear.

Queenslanders Paul Morris and John Teulan finished fourth in a Ferrari.

The race was notable for a lack of any incident serious enough to call out the safety car and the entire event was run at full race speed in a time of 3 hours 39 minutes 5 seconds for the 500 kilometres.

The Clarion Sandown 500 was the 34th running of the event, which began in 1964.

First the first time since its early days, the 500 was run for production based cars, drawn from regular competitors in the Megamantis.com Australian Nations Cup Championship and Century Batteries Australian GT Production Car Championship.

"I feels terrific to win. I don't win that often any more and to take this race with Tom is very satisfying," Bowe said.

"It was especially good to win in such a mixed field of cars. The Sandown 500 started as a race for production cars and this year it's gone back to where we started - I don't think motorsport in Australia takes enough notice of tradition."

With 18 different cars of widely varying performance on track, there was significant potential for trouble as the 300 kmh Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghini and Viper negotiated traffic.

But none occurred and the winners congratulated the drivers of slower cars for their safe behavior.

There were terrific battles throughout the race in the various classes, with the High Performance competitors running close behind the outright Nations Cup contenders.

Rick Bates and Bob Hughes finished sixth outright with 150 laps in their Mitsubishi Evo VI, after a pitchedbattle with the Subaru pair of Scott Anderson and Wayne Boatwright.

LenCave and Bob Wright took first in the Sports Touring class in a Honda Integra and Sydney's Scott Loadsman and Warren Luff drove their Holden Commodore SS to first in the V8 Touring class.

A total of 19 cars finished from 36 starters. Significant retiremnts included Cameron McConville and Peter Floyd, who were eighth outright in a Holden Commodore GTS when the differential failed on lap 47 and Ross Palmer/David Wood in the event's only Ford Mustang.

D'arcy Russell and Darren Palmer were the last classified finishers, 19th in a Chrysler Viper.

The 8.0 litre Viper had been one of the race favorites, but lost 25 laps in the pits replacing a broken axle. However, Palmer set the fastest race lap at 1 minute 17.7 seconds.

-Procar Au-

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